ELLENSBURG, Wash. – Junior forward Hannah Wandersee had career highs of 24 points, 11 rebounds and four assists Friday as 4th-ranked Alaska Anchorage held off a late Hawaii Pacific rally to earn an 82-74 women’s basketball victory in the Wildcat Crossover at Nicholson Pavilion.
Playing their first game against fellow NCAA Div. II competition, the Seawolves (2-0) also got 14 points, five rebounds and two steals from senior forward Shelby Cloninger, plus 13 points, four assists and four steals from senior guard Rodericka Ware. Junior guard Tara Thompson added nine points on 3-of-5 three-point shooting in the rematch of last year’s NCAA Tournament First Round game, won 63-56 by UAA.
Coming off a 21-7 record and picked to finish fourth in the Pacific West Conference preseason poll, the Sharks (0-1) were led by 24 points on 7-of-10 shooting by guard Janessa Manzano, plus 20 points, seven rebounds and seven assists from backcourt mate Samantha Lambrigsten.
“Luckily they don’t judge on style points, but we’ll take that win any way we can get it,” said UAA head coach Ryan McCarthy, whose club improved to 99-7 over the last three-plus seasons. “HPU is a very talented team that should make another run at a playoff berth, so we can be proud of this effort today. Outside of that two-time stretch we played solidly for this time of year.”
UAA – the three-time defending Great Northwest Athletic Conference champion and preseason poll favorite – scored on its first five possessions and led 10-0 before HPU would gain its footing.
The Sharks knotted the score at 14-14 and trailed 22-20 before the Seawolves made a late surge and took a 45-32 halftime lead on Ware’s steal and coast-in layup late in the second quarter.
The Seawolves increased their advantage throughout the third quarter, taking their largest lead at 65-43 on two Wandersee free throws at the 2:37 mark. Ware fed Yazmeen Goo for a layup to make it 75-59 with 6:04 left in the game before the Seawolves hit a cold spell, allowing a 12-0 Sharks run over the next two and half minutes.
Sharks guard Spencer Gray nailed a three-pointer to make it a one-possession game, 77-74, with 3:13 remaining, but her team would not score again. Goo made 3 of 4 free throws and Cloninger made a pair to provide the final margin and keep the Seawolves unbeaten in eight all-time meetings against the Sharks.
Wandersee, a 6-1 post from Kodiak, recorded the second double-double of her career, shooting 8 of 16 overall, 1 of 2 on three-pointers and 7 of 7 at the free-throw line. Ware – a transfer who faced the Sharks last year with Pac West member Academy of Art – shot 5 of 8 overall, 3 of 5 on threes and committed only one turnover in 27 minutes.
Cloninger shot 5 of 7 (2-3 3FG), and Goo tied her career high with nine points on 7-of-10 free-throw shooting. The sophomore point guard also had three steals and a team-high five assists.
The Seawolves face another West Region foe Saturday at the Wildcat Crossover when they tip at noon AST against Cal State Los Angeles. That game can be seen live at GNAC.tv.